The first time Kiki Bildstein walked onto a stage, she immediately kicked off her shoes and performed her set barefoot. She has been making herself feel at home on stages across Lorain County and beyond ever since.

Bildstein has been performing for more than 20 years, but her addition two years ago as the lead singer to the local cover band Less Than 88 revolutionized the group into one of the most popular in this region. What started as a few musicians gathering in drummer Bob Bove’s basement had evolved into a couple of nice gigs. But when the band parted ways with their old singers and brought on Bildstein, the wide array of personalities and backgrounds blended in perfect harmony. And the backgrounds of the seven members are as varied as their music.

Bove is a financial adviser who started playing the drums in middle school, stopped in college and picked it back up about four years ago. Dave Sinibaldi, who sings backup and plays guitar, is an audio/visual salesman and his son, guitarist Jonathan, is a college student studying English at Baldwin-Wallace. Keyboardist Mark Whalen owns a pest control company, and bass guitarist Ed Maguire is a research associate for Duke University Medical Center — he is the only band member with a Ph.D.

Add Bildstein and backup singer Jen Banas, who joined the band at the beginning of the year, and the result is a band that developed a huge following throughout the bars and nightclubs around Lorain County. Now it’s scheduled to open for Average White Band in October at the Lorain Palace Theater.

When Bildstein joined the group, the other members gave her a list of 30 songs and told her she had three weeks to learn them. “I’ve never worked with a bunch of guys who are so dedicated, and their passion for music is insane,” Bildstein says. “It was a blessing to be brought on.”

Bildstein has a unique style beyond the barefoot approach. She stands 6-foot-2 and usually leaves the stage to roam the crowd when she sings. Thanks in large part to her vocal range, the band can quickly transition from a song such as “Betty Davis Eyes” to Michelle Branch’s hit “Game of Love,” Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” and Adele’s “Rumor Has It.”

“When you listen to our sets, you can’t pigeonhole us as a rock band,” Bove says. “We’re all across the board. We’ve always tried to play stuff you won’t hear most other people play.”

The band members came up with their unique name while they were preparing to play their first public gig. They were trying to figure out how to get the piano on stage — something they had practiced only in Bove’s basement. But they couldn’t move it. That’s when a former singer offered to bring her organ, even though it had less than 88 keys.

“A light bulb went off and I thought that was pretty cool,” Bove says. “We tell people if you’re less than 88, you can play in our band — or else it’s our IQ."